Something happens when you become a mother; it’s easy to lose sight of who you were before. For some women this happens all at once, when they become pregnant or right after they have the baby. For others, myself included, it is more like a trickle. Everyday when I look in the mirror, my previous self seems farther and farther away. Right after Charley, this made me depressed. I would stare into my enormous closet full of size four silk dresses that weren’t even close to fitting. With tears in my eyes, I wondered when I would ever wear them again. I must have had forty pairs of heels, that sometimes for fun I would shove my foot into and walk around in our apartment. Slowly, throughout that first year of being a mom, I let go of all of that. I sold my dresses, one by one, on Ebay. Sometimes I would search for the addresses of the recipients on Google. I imagined that my prized pink wool tweed dress was going to another adventurous girl at 150 Oak Street, Chicago, Illinois. I bid it adieu and hoped she would wear it well. I pictured it going out to fancy dinners and to the opera. The shoes went next. They were narrowed down until one day I had only a few pairs, and they were all flats (or clogs). This editing infused every aspect of my life. I purged perfumes I didn’t use, jewelry I never wore, even books I would never have the time to read. I purchased ‘mom shorts’ and chopped all my hair off. I embraced motherhood. Or so I thought. Suddenly, sometime after my second son was born, I looked in the mirror and gasped. I couldn’t even recognize myself in pictures. I realized I had strayed too far down one path. In embracing motherhood, I had ignored my true self, the ‘me’ I had discovered before kids.
I set out to merge these two paths. I knew I didn’t want to be 100% ‘mom’ but I also knew I could no longer be 100% ‘me, me, me’ like I was before children. They needed me as their mom, but I also needed me as me. Part of merging these two paths was making decisions with both selves in mind. So much of parenthood is dealing with your previously suppressed notions of what it means to be a family and a mother. For some reason, I believed I had to buy those ‘mom shorts’. I felt they were my ticket to the club, to some hidden sisterhood that I desperately wanted to be a part of. Instead it just made me feel further from myself.
Part of combining my two selves is bringing my kids to experience the places I love. For the first time, we brought them both to Chicago last week. Charley was thrilled! He pointed out every tall building (there were many) and every type of truck he could see. We walked up State Street, where I had moved as a wide-eyed college student. It was a nostalgia trip, to say the least. But it felt like home for the first time in a very long time. I saw my two selves merge, I could be a mom and I could be my old self as well. It would just take time.